into an uncertain future:
Police step up efforts to combat human smugglers
Human smuggling has once more shed more light on the nature and scope
of the sordid operation conducted by racketeers who fleece ignorant
people, especially those in the North and the East by promising them, a
Shangrila in Western countries.
Lured by what they hear from human smugglers, about prospects of
re-building their lives in twice countries most people fall victim to
ploys adopted by human smugglers. Exorbitant sums of money are charged
from them to smuggle them across to the west and in the pacific coast.
Incidentally, the beaches of the North Western Province (NWP) has
become a focal point for human smuggling operations due to its vast
uninhabited beaches. Relentless efforts made by law enforcement
authorities to thwart human smuggling activity have proved futile in the
The overwhelming desire to get across to the west has outweighed the
risks of undertaking such perilous voyages.
The NWP beaches are notorious not only for human smuggling but also
for heroin smuggling from neighbouring countries.
Even during the period when the Security Forces were battling
terrorists in the North and the East, the beaches became a dumping
ground for military hardware, smuggled by terrorists from pirate ships.
The beaches from Puttalam to Chilaw became a haven for smugglers.
Police Media Spokesman, Superintendent of Police Prishantha Jayakody
told the Sunday Observer that 40 men, 12 women and six children all from
the North East provinces were arrested by the police when they made an
attempt to flee the country in a boat bound for Australia.
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) sleuths on a tip off arrested
the suspects. The Spokesman said that it was an offence for anyone to
flee the country from an authorised port with or without valid
The group had attempted to sail in a fishing trawler to Australia
recently. The trawler in which they were to sail was found abandoned at
Ambakandawila in the Chilaw area with 6,000 litres of fuel and a
consignment of food stuff such as noodles and other food stuff.
The spokesman said the group of persons from the North-East had
arrived in the Western Province sometime back and had taken refuge in
hotels and homes in and around Negombo and in Wellawatte.
“They were people from Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Batticaloa
and from other areas. Each person had paid a sum of Rs. 100,000 as an
advance to smugglers and had agreed to pay a further sum of Rs. 300,000
after completing the journey,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, human smugglers are being investigated as to whether they
were linked to terrorist activity in the past. The seven suspects
produced before the Colombo Magistrate were issued with a detention
order to be questioned further.
Incidentally thirty-two persons who attempted to sail to New Zealand
illegally two years ago from a coastal town were arrested by the Negombo
police. Police learnt that 14 persons were from Vavuniya, 10 were from
Mannar and eight from the Ampara district. However, the boatman who
organised the voyage fled with his boat before the police party arrived.
The 32 suspects were produced before the Negombo Courts and a
detention order was issued on them to be questioned further.
The suspects told police that each one had paid a sum of Rs 300,000
to a smuggler from the Vavuniya area.
However, the man disappeared after collecting the cash from the
people. Police then launched an investigation to ascertain whether he
was involved in terrorist activity.
A couple of years ago a millionaire businessman was taken into
custody in connection with human trafficking to European countries.
According to Police, several persons had paid large sums of money to the
racketeer. Among them were Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and
The smuggler had promised to take them to western Europe and
Australia. In 2003, 254 Pakistani men and five Sri Lankans who attempted
to flee the country were taken into custody by police. The suspects
boarded a ship anchored in mid-sea at Tangalle.
Last year a vessel named MV Sun Sea carrying over 490 Sri Lankans
illegally entered British Colombia Islands in Canada.
Many of them had sought asylum in Canada. The cargo ship was used
earlier by the LTTE to smuggle arms, ammunition and explosives from a
South Eastern country.
The ship was first sighted at the Bay of Thailand and intelligence
agencies alerted the Australian government. But later the ship diverted
its course and sailed towards the British Colombia Islands in Canada.
When the ship arrived in Canadian territorial waters, the Canadian
authorities intercepted the ship and took its passengers in for
questioning. While several passengers were granted asylum in Canada
those with links to the former LTTE and those who had committed crimes
are being investigated, sources said.
A few years back experts from law enforcement agencies from several
countries met in Sri Lanka to discuss matters relating to human
trafficking and other transnational crimes.
The then interior minister addressing the conference said human
trafficking was an organised racket perpetrated by criminal networks
involved in smuggling of drugs, armaments, money laundering, who had
links with other terrorist groups.
He said priority had been given to human trafficking and that they
were working in close co-operation with other states.
The loopholes relating to laws connected to human trafficking have
been tightened. Fifty-two persons engaged in human smuggling have been
arrested and prosecuted.
Attempts by gangs to smuggle people out of Sri Lanka have been
thwarted in high seas due to vigilance shown by the Navy, he said.
The minister highlighted the tragedy of 400 people who drowned along
with the vessel in 2002. Representatives from countries such as
Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China,
Fiji, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia,
Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Pakistan,
Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Island,
Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Timer, Turkey, Vanity, Vietnam, Carbide
took part in the discussions.